A look at Plains Indians, in words and music (Mar. 31 to Apr. 5)

March 31, 2008

Today kicks off American Indian Awareness Week at Washington University, the highlight of which is the pow wow on Saturday (Apr. 5). There are also other educational events planned, including a lunchtime food tasting Thursday (Apr. 3), movie night, poetry reading and lectures about this year’s theme, American Indian military veterans. The online event flier gives dates, times and locations.

Saturday’s pow wow begins at noon with gourd dancing, followed by a grand entry at 1 p.m. (there’s another at 6 p.m. too). If you’ve never seen an American Indian dance competition, be prepared to stay awhile — you’ll be captivated by the clothing and the rhythms. The category names alone are evocative: for the women, for example, there’s fancy, jingle, buckskin, cloth and golden (for dancers over age 55). Like the men, the kids have their own divisions, one for ages 6 to 15 and another for “tiny tots” who promise to be cute indeed. The dancing is intertribal, which means members of tribes from across the Plains will be there.

An MC explains what’s going on for the uninitiated (if this includes you, check out this link for a very straightforward description of what to expect), and whenever the dancing begins to pale for the kids, take them over to the youth activities area (1:30 to 6 p.m.) or to the arts and crafts area (open from 10 a.m. on).

All of Saturday’s activities take place at the field house. To learn more, take a look at the press release from the week’s sponsor, the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.


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